Why and How Creating a Bokeh in Nature Photography

The technique of creating a bokeh is used in photography to make blurry backgrounds. A bokeh helps to highlight the points of interest in a photo, because the background does not include any details. But be careful about using one, because they are not suited to all situations.

Photo sous-marine d'un nudibranche. En photographie sous-marine, la technique du bokeh est très intéressante en gros plan pour mettre des sujets en valeur.
Underwater photo of a nudibranch. In underwater photography, a bokeh is useful for highlighting the subject in a close-up.

The Origins Of The Word

The word bokeh comes from a Japanese word meaning "blur" or "haze". It describes the gradation of colors in woodcuts. It appeared in photography books in the late 1990s, referring to a blurry background used to separate the subject from its surroundings.

How To Use Your Lens To Create a Bokeh

A bokeh is produced by combining a shallow depth of field with a very large aperture, but whether its appearance is pleasing or not depends on the design of the lens, specifically on the shape of the iris, which is usually called the diaphragm.

The closer the camera is to the subject, the more the depth of field naturally decreases. The background becomes more blurry.

Lower quality lenses will produce a hexagonal or octagonal bokeh, depending on the number of lamellae which form the lens iris. If the number of lamellae in the diaphragm is high, the bokeh will be rounded, making the blur of the background more aesthetically pleasing.

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Larger apertures often produce the most beautiful bokeh because of the nice round diaphragm. This type of bokeh creates sharper contrast between the subject and the rest of the picture.

The shape of the bokeh can also be oval, depending on the optical design of the lens, especially with an anamorphic lens (used for videos and movies). For a nice bokeh, we prefer to use a lens with a large aperture, a macro lens or a telephoto lens.

If you do not have a lens with a large aperture, such as f/1.4, f/2 or f/2.8, simply increase the distance between the subject and the background. Even smaller apertures, like f/8, can produce a bokeh

How To Produce a Bokeh in Post Processing

Specific filters in image editing software can reproduce the phenomenon of a bokeh, which is more complex than a simple Gaussian blur. Note that the word "bokeh" itself has an aesthetic connotation. In photographic terms, depending on the software used, a bokeh can be described as "silky" or as more "rough".

Questions To Ask Before Creating a Bokeh

Questions to ask before creating a bokeh:

  • What lens am I using?
  • What is the light like?
  • What kind of aperture do I have?
  • What is the purpose of the bokeh?

The last question is important, because the bokeh is going to define the composition. A bokeh creates soft and soothing photographs. Often, the lights in the background appear diffused and the colors are softened.

Photo sous-marine d'un nudibranche. En photographie sous-marine, la technique du bokeh est très intéressante en gros plan pour mettre des sujets en valeur.
Photo of a doe.In wildlife photography, a bokeh enables the photographer to clearly separate the subjects from the background.


The technique of creating a bokeh enables photographers to blur the background of a photo. This highlights the points of interest well. This technique is very useful in close-up photography for isolating the main focus of the picture. In landscape photography, it does not have much interest because the depth of the picture is lost.


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